The idea of grace first entered my life a few years back during a women’s group I was participating in at our church in Chicago. At the time, I wasn’t religious. Spiritual, yes, but religious, no. Yet there I was, every Tuesday night with a group of other young women who all wanted to share in something bigger than themselves. On our first evening together, the idea of grace was introduced. We spent the next few months together discussing, sharing our experiences and searching for grace in our lives. At that time, I could talk about what grace meant, but looking back, I realize only now that I had never truly understood it’s pull. It was something I talked about, but didn’t truly know.
A few months after that group ended, my whole world turned upside down. Our little family packed up the only life we had ever known, moved across country and started over. A move I expected to be fun and exciting, proved to be more than I was capable of handling. I haven’t been the same since. In some ways, better, stronger, and in other ways I’m still picking up the millions of pieces that seemed to have shattered farther than my eye could see.
My fourth, unexpected, child was born shortly after that move. My days settling into our new home and our new normal as a family of six were long, hard and overwhelming. It felt paralyzing at times, not knowing how to resettle us all. It was too much for me. For the first time in 37 years I was truly lost.
My world was cracked open, and I was left with tiny, sharp fragments to put back together. All I wanted was smooth edges. For months, but what felt like eternity, I did my best to soften those edges. I tried everything I could think of to create a new, happy, life for us, but the sharp edges never dulled. The pieces wouldn’t go back together and I kept getting cut along the way.
And then when I least expected it, a few months shy of our one year mark, something shifted. On a cold January evening, I found myself in my kitchen cleaning up after our kids. If you know me well, you know that I am religious about wiping up crumbs from my floors. (With four children, there will always be crumbs, and there will always be me wiping them up.) On this particular snowy night, as I was down on my knees wiping up crumbs, something I had done hundreds of times before, I started crying. Not just a few tears. I wept. My face in my hands, on the cold kitchen floor, in a house that wasn’t our home, alone yet surrounded by sounds of four little people who were depending on me to stand up and make everything ok. I was scared and confused and so many other feelings that even now I can’t put my finger on. I had been trying so hard to put all my of fragments back together, to pick up all of the fallen crumbs, all of the things that were left for me to clean up. It was too much to carry. So, on that cold January night I left them all there on that cold wood floor. I let the crumbs just be and I cried.
It was in that moment, in that very real, ordinary, humbling, simple moment that I felt what it means to know grace. To give in, not up, but to give in. To surrender, to a life and a meaning that had yet to be revealed. Here I was a mom of four, alone in a new world I didn’t understand, and I couldn’t find my way out. That January night a feeling rushed over me that I no longer had to. It gave me permission to stop trying so hard. To empty my pockets from the weight of all the fragments I had been carrying with me for nine months. To let them be. For me, that is grace.
This tiny, humble five letter word rushed over me and said “set your heart here, I will carry it for you. I will take over and lead the way.” But to enter that contract you must be open, clear, awake and ready. And I was. I was ready. There, on my cold kitchen floor, surrounded by crumbs, I was finally ready.
A writer I love and adore, Mark Nepo once described grace as “effort moving in slow motion”. I love that meaning. To me, that means moving through your life at a speed that you can truly see. That you can be aware of the world around, of your own actions, and thoughts. That you can move slowly enough to be awake. So many of us, unknowingly, rush through our days asleep. How much more joyful would it be to feel your “effort moving in slow motion”. To move so slowly that you feel it ALL, you see it ALL, you are moved and touch by it All. That is the beauty that grace brings.
Grace enters and flows in and out of our lives all the time, every day. I believe that to create a life of joy, all we need to do is align ourselves with that flow. To step into it. It’s there waiting for us. For each of us. All we have to do is to be ready, to let the crumbs be.